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Whether it’s 5, 10 or 15 minutes (or even longer), here are some simple things you can do to improve the mood of someone living in a care home.

Sometimes it can feel like you’re so busy doing all the practical things within the home and ensuring everything runs smoothly, that it can be hard to find time to check in on your residents and help perk them up and boost their mood. However, whether it’s only a few minutes or a bit longer, taking the time to do this can help ensure happy service users and a calmer, more productive environment for staff.

Got 5 minutes?

– Ask a resident a question
This could be a general ‘how are you today?’ or finding out if there’s anything they need? They may want to get up and look out the window, walk in the garden or go to the toilet so you could help them do that. You could discuss the weather, time of year or their family. Do not underestimate the power of questions for boosting mood and engagement.

– Recommend an activity
If they look like they might be bored or in need of some interaction, suggest something they can do independently. This could be a dementia jigsaw puzzle, some crafting or look at a picture book or memory book. Set them up with the activity by sitting them down, getting the item (or having them get it if they’re still mobile) and start them off.

– Stop and listen to some music
If there’s some music playing, you could stop and sing or hum along to a song or the radio. You could even try a bit of armchair dancing (where they stay sitting and you stand in front of them holding their arms while you sway along to the music with them).

– Set them up with a job
This could be anything from sorting post or folding napkins to dusting. Don’t feel guilty that you’re getting them to do a ‘job’ – anything that provides a sense of purpose can be extremely beneficial for helping to give them a sense of their previous life.

Got 10 minutes?

– Read the newspaper together
It can be harder to read and follow a news story as dementia develops, but having someone reading a story aloud can be a great way for them to engage with the news (even if they’ve forgotten the story by the time you’ve finished reading).

– Do a sensory activity
A gentle hand massage using some scented hand cream can be a great way to help someone with dementia feel calm and relaxed, and really doesn’t take too long. Make sure you check that they’d actually like one, as some residents may feel agitated if they don’t understand why someone is touching them.

– Help them with a puzzle
See a resident struggling to complete an activity they’re doing? Spending 10 minutes sitting with them and guiding them with advice or suggestions will give them a sense of accomplishment when they complete that activity. This could be completing a jigsaw, finishing a craft project or even packing away the items if they’ve just finished. Finishing off and tidying up is an activity in itself, and you can say, ‘Come on John, now we’ve finished the puzzle, how about you help me put the pieces back in the box?’

Got 15 minutes?

– Have a cup of tea
Don’t feel guilty about stopping to sit down for a cup of tea with a resident. You may feel like you should be up and about doing tasks, but the very nature of sitting with someone is beneficial for them.

– Go for a walk round the garden
Point out different plants, listen to the birds (and see if they can identify the bird from its song) and support them if they need help walking around the grounds.

– Do some indoor games
Hoopla, carpet bowls and indoor skittles can be easily set up and played in this time frame, and are ideal if the weather is bad or your residents can’t get around easily, as they can all be played in a seated position.

Got longer?

– Record their life story
Setting out a residents’ life story can take time, so this will depend on how much time you have. It may be a case of adding to an existing story or finishing off a particular chapter in their life.

– Do a music quiz
Music has the power to trigger long-forgotten memories, so spending some time playing some songs to residents and seeing if they can name the song, artist or simply sing along once the music stops can be a great activity.

– Do a strength-training session
Helping to keep residents fitter and stronger is so important for reducing the risk of falls. And while we’re not talking about lifting dumbbells and doing squats (although if they’re able, by all means encourage it!) there are activities that can help to activate muscles, even from a seated position. This could be anything from squeezing rubber balls to improve grip, to batting balloons around or waving silk scarves.

– Sit down with a rummage box
A rummage box is a fantastic activity to get people talking. Someone with dementia may enjoy it as you can put all sorts of different items in there and they could help to spark a memory and some conversation.

Take a look at some of our care home activities products here.